Roman Balassaitis has found his forever home. The 17-year-old was about to age out of the foster care system when he was adopted by Renee and Brad Balassaitis just before his 18th birthday. He had no place to go so the adoption was a miracle that came in the nick of time.
The Balassaitises began taking foster children into their home in 2008, and they have fostered 20 children since then. They believe that they were called upon by God to help children and consider it the most rewarding thing they have ever done.
They couple don’t sugarcoat foster care or adoption though, having gone through cases of schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder, and oppositional defiance disorder in the children they have supported.
Roman, in particular, bounced around the foster care system and had moved through 19 different homes from age 11. Brad and Renee wanted to give him stability before his 18th birthday, when he would no longer be eligible for support.
Brad and Renee are now parents to six adopted and two biological children, specifically Tom, 28, Chrissy, 26, Austin, 22, Jared, 22, Sammy, 20, Halle and Roman, both 18, and Tatiana, 17. Jared and Halle are their biological children, and another daughter, Rosie, died in 2022.
Brad explained that Roman’s adoption journey began when he came into their lives when he was 12 years old and stayed with the family for nine months.
“But he wasn’t ready to be part of a family. He was driven by a fear of abandonment. Ironically, he turned around and acted in ways that pushed people away,” Brad shared.
The family was heartbroken when he left, and Renee particularly felt that she had lost a son.
Many years later, Roman connected with Halle on social media. Renee invited him to have dinner with the family and in August 2022, Roman expressed the desire to live with them again. By December, the family agreed to adopt Roman, and they told him the happy news in the sweetest way possible.
On Christmas day, Roman received the most priceless gift via an embroidered stocking – he was being adopted into the Balassaitis family. The whole family cried with Roman, and from then on it was a race to officially adopt the teen before he reached his 18th birthday.
The adoption saga ended happily and Roman officially became a Balassaitis on October 17, just one day shy of his 18th birthday.
He exclaimed, “I was sweating bad. My heart was beating. I was very happy. It means I have someone to go to. It means if I need someone to talk to, I have people to talk to now.”
Renee was especially joyful, and said, “Ever since adoption day, Roman has been walking lighter. It’s like a huge weight has been lifted off his shoulders and you can see it in the way he moves. He’s incredibly relieved.”
Still, academic and mental health challenges remain for Roman as he adjusts to his new life. Roman is currently a high school junior and has trouble with reading and is behind in his coursework.
Renee added that he also has difficulty expressing his feelings, and said, “…but that’s to be expected. He always had to live with his guard up.”
Still, in a calm home environment, Roman has found time to enjoy childhood moments he never had. He enjoys playing games like Chutes and Ladders and gets excited when he sees a swing set, which most children probably take for granted.
Roman’s story is a poignant reminder of the countless teenagers in the United States who yearn for a similar happy ending.
His case is unfortunately quite common, and the clock is ticking for older orphans, many of whom won’t be adopted before their 18th birthday.
According to the University of Florida, 60% age out of the foster care in the state. Florida adoption attorney Jeanne T. Tate added, “Kids like Roman have experienced a lot of trauma and instability, and not being adopted is the final nail in the coffin. There’s nowhere for them to go, so they end up in prison or on the streets. They turn 18 and it’s like, ‘Good luck.’”
All Roman ever wanted was to find his forever family. He did, and just in time, too, right before his 18th birthday. The Balassaitis family’s decision to open their hearts and home to Roman shines a light on the immense difference a loving and supportive family can make in a young person’s life.
Roman’s life now is a stark contrast to the turbulence he had endured for years. It is also a reminder that every child deserves the chance to find love and stability, no matter how difficult their path may have been.
To see the wonderful people in this story, watch the video below: